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Washington holiday season begins with arrival of White House Christmas tree

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The full holiday party schedule for 2011 has not been announced. But some invitations – featuring the presidential seal surrounded by a green holiday wreath and a big red bow – have already gone out.  

The First Lady’s office said Friday that military families would be the first to see this year's holiday decorations. She will host a special gathering for them November 30 where she will speak, and the White House chefs and florist will talk about holiday decorations and food. The theme of this year’s Blue Room Christmas tree will be honoring Blue star families, the White House said. Blue Star families are those who have a member serving in the military during a time of war.

Mrs. Obama’s office also said Gold Star families will take part in decorating a special Gold Star tree that will be placed at the visitors’ entrance to the East Wing. Guests at White House holiday events enter through the East Wing entrance near where Mrs. Obama's office is located. Gold Star families are those who have a relative killed while serving in the Armed Forces in wartime.

The growers of this year’s official tree won the honor in a Christmas tree contest held in August by the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA).

This is the seventh time a Wisconsin grower has provided the White House tree, according to NCTA records which go back to 1966. North Carolina growers hold the record for providing the official White House tree, having done so 11 times. Wisconsin and Washington State are tied for second place with 7 wins each. This year is the first since 1998 when a balsam fir was the winning species.

While the Blue Room tree is the most highly decorated and has a place of honor, it is usually just one of many trees placed around the White House. Last year there were 19 trees in all.  

White House holiday receptions include events for members of Congress and the administration, diplomats, and members of the media.

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